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Factors a judge will consider when modifying a child custody order..

At the point a final decree of divorce or other court order has been confirmed in New Jersey to determine each parent’s rights and responsibilities regarding child custody and visitation, this order becomes legally binding. Nevertheless, a parent can request a modification asking for a change if he or she can prove that there has been what is called a “substantial change in circumstances” since the last order was created. In this blog, our firm will review what the court in New Jersey defines as a “substantial change in circumstances” and when child custody & visitation arrangements can be grounds for a post judgment modification.

Substantial Change in Circumstances

The family court system needs proof that a substantial change in circumstances has happened in order to issue a post judgment modification. This will then deter parents from frequent requests to modify the established child custody arrangement. Additionally, the court will only grant a modification if it is also in the best interests of the child. A substantial change in circumstance means an indefinite change. This might include a decline in one of the parents’ health, job loss, or instances of domestic violence. Here are some additional examples of what the court defines as a substantial change in circumstances:


Moving/ Relocation

As an example, if one parent needs to make a consequential move, such as moving out of the area for an opportunity of a higher paying job, he or she can petition the court to modify custody and or visitation. The court will then ask the parents to try to work out a new parenting plan to accommodate everyone’s schedule. In the event the custodial parent needs to relocate out of state and the other parent wishes to change custody, the family court will take this into consideration and decide what is in the best interests of the child. In regards to relocation, the statute or criteria for the child’s best interests can also be found in the N.J.S.A. 9:2-4.


Adjustments in the child’s needs

If it has been identified that the child requires more educational support or tutoring. As an example it may be a case where the child has some form of a learning disability, a parent can make a request to modify custody. If one parent is better suited to provide for a child with a mental, emotional, or physical disability, it is possible the court could change custody.


Additionally, as a child grows and matures, their needs will change. A child may need to spend their earlier years with one parent and their high school years with the other. You may wish to change custody due to these factors. One parent refuses to adhere to the custody terms

If one parent is not following the custody agreement you established, you can file a petition to modify custody. You will need to show that these violations negatively affect the child’s well being. Not cooperating with the judge or co-parent is a huge red flag in the eyes of the court. If the parent continues to violate their orders, then their parental rights may be stripped.

Child endangerment If one parent has exhibited bad behavior, such as abusing drugs and/or alcohol or physically, sexually, or emotionally abusing the child you can work with your attorney post judgment modification to modify custody and secure a protective order if necessary. If your child is ever in immediate danger, contact the police immediately. Endangering a child is a serious offense and can also strip you of your custody or visitation rights. Section 2C:24-4 has more information about endangering the welfare of children.

Motion for Post Judgment Modification

Each parent can request a change in custody or visitation due to a substantial change in circumstances that is not temporary and would be in the child’s best interests. After the court has listened to the motion to modify custody, a custody evaluation may be performed. As such, it would be beneficial to consult with a seasoned professional lawyer during this time as how each parent presents their issues in a child custody evaluation can determine whether the court will grant a post judgment modification.

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